July 1, 2008
Steven W. Ells
Vertical Power (VP) of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has created a microprocessor-controlled electrical system for experimental airplanes. VP’s system not only can replace the countless circuit breakers, diodes, relays, and other discrete components that have been the norm for GA airplane electrical systems for the past 70 years, but it has a programmable “brain” to that can be fine-tuned to manage the electrical system. Sound scary? Don’t worry. The VP systems—there are three including an air-conditioner control system—only perform tasks as assigned by the user. Tasks can range from making sure a fuel boost pump is on when the takeoff mode is selected, to complex tasks such as automatically resetting the pitch trim settings when the landing gear is raised during a go-around procedure.
“Re-trimming the airplane during gear retraction is another workload reduction feature,” said Mark Ausman president of Vertical Power. “These systems can best be described as modern technology that simplifies aircraft wiring while providing advanced electrical system capabilities.”
The two basic systems, the VP-50 and the VP-100, provide the pilot with manual control over the aircraft’s electrical system through eight user-configurable switches, as well as providing a continuous readout of the electrical system health.
The VP-200 system has a full graphical interface on the instrument panel that provides the pilot with an easy-to-interpret engine monitoring and electrical system health display. In addition to managing routine tasks such as turning on and off components and systems during modes of flight, the VP-200 can also be configured to automatically manage electrical system tasks during emergencies or high-workload phases of flight.
For example, if the aircraft bus voltage drops below a selected threshold level, VP systems can be programmed to automatically shut off non-essential circuits to reduce electrical load.
“It’s like having a co-pilot who is always on duty reading checklists and automatically configuring the airplane for each phase of flight,” said Ausman.
Vertical Power products are not approved for use in certified aircraft. Systems range in price from $3,495 to $9,995 for twin-engine aircraft.
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The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) welcomed a Sept. 18 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announcement that it would host a “call to action summit” to address the barriers and potential challenges associated with equipping tens of thousands of aircraft for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) by the Jan. 1, 2020 deadline. ADS-B is a critical component of the NextGen air traffic modernization program.
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